The late-night comedians are having a field day with the buffoonish antics of the mayor of Toronto, but I don’t think those of us on the American side of the border should get too smug about our friends to the north.
One wacky mayor aside, Canada has been working to pick off skilled U.S. energy workers just as we’re trying to become energy independent. And it’s also actively recruiting high-tech talent from Silicon Valley amid frustration with Washington’s inability to agree on immigration reform, according to news reports.
And now Canada’s coming after me.
After multiple attempts to reach me by phone, I recently received this email from the province of Ontario (Yes, a message from a province):
“Ontario is Canada's economic powerhouse and offers a competitive business environment with a stable and growing economy, skilled workforce and low corporate taxes. In fact, The Economist Intelligence Unit has ranked Canada as the best place in the G7 to do business from 2010 to 2014, and on January 1, 2011, Canada's federal corporate income taxes were cut from 18% to 16.5% compared to the US federal rate of 35%.”
Ouch. That’s an aggressive case for why manufacturing companies like mine should move there. It basically goes like this: If we can cope with colder weather, our taxes would be half. On top of that, Canada’s tax includes health insurance. (I had to scramble to replace my company’s insurance plan last month after being informed my rates were being raised a whopping 49 percent in the disarray over health care reform.)
The attempt to lure U.S. businesses like mine is rooted in a broader problem: Our business landscape is becoming less competitive in the global marketplace. And our competitors are exploiting this handicap. Canada was among the countries, including China and the European Union, where the U.S. was running a trade deficit in the most recent monthly trade reports.
My company makes all our steel containers for material handling in the U.S. and we export to 36 countries, including Canada. We believe our quality, engineering skill and fast delivery give us a leg up on our global competitors. But those competitors also have advantages we don’t, and they’re clearly seeking to capitalize on them.
Manufacturing companies have a large multiplier effect on the economy. They are vital to middle-class prosperity. Ontario, for one, obviously recognizes that.
Washington, are you listening?